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Pannella Marco - 1 luglio 1994
(9) Marco Pannella - Drugs and Drug Addicts

Marco Pannella, Founder of the Radical Party, Member of the European Parliament

In 1975, the new bill on drugs being discussed in the italian Chamber of Deputies contains a glaring contradiction: on the one hand, it allows the use and possession of a "small quantity" of drugs for personal use, yet, on the other hand, it prohibits the trade, sale and production of drugs. And it also continues to consider derivatives of Indian hemp as drugs. Marco Pannella states that the law is crime inducing because it makes trade in drugs a crime, forces drug addicts to enter into a criminal circle and augments proselytism. He concludes with a dramatic prediction: deaths from heroin will double within a few years if this bill becomes law.

We are republishing this text for its historical importance as well as the clarity of view-point.

The deputies are examining the new bill on drugs sent to them from the Senate. Their responsibility is a particularly grave and terrible one. They must legislate with the urgency that the diffusion of this scourge demands - scourge which was largely foreseen and has punctually occurred with the general indifference of all parties except the Radicals.

But they have before them a hypocritical and contradictory proposal that accepts the most civil principles that for almost ten years we have fought for and in practice denies them. Neither can the deputies deny the fact that in our prisons thousands of innocent and sick people by now continue to destroy themselves, to be murdered, literally and morally. But what, in reality, are these "drugs", these "drug addicts", that frighten us so? The drug user appears to be, and is, the modern "possessed" man, possessed by the "devil". He is a slave who has no choice but to hook others on drugs and kill them as he is killing himself, if he doesn't want to die immediately amidst atrocious suffering and/or in prison. The slave of a society and profit industry, of consumerism, with its values and its masters who are called "mafia" only because and when it is convenient. At the source of the opiate industry there are officially states, even democratic ones, and, notoriously, the international of the secret services of alm

ost all countries, not only the French or American ones, and the multinational mafia.

We are afraid of these drugs and these drug addicts and we must defend ourselves against them, we must concern ourselves with them on the legal level and with a human and civil commitment. Not only of these, but at least and prejudicially of these. Thus we Radicals and Socialists have tolerated for now the scandal of lack of public control of production, illicit advertising, and mass prescription of so many psycho-pharmaceuticals that are in themselves frightening drugs and whose consumption is painfully exalted and prescribed as a social measure that gives rise to exploitation.

These clarifications, these choices, are necessary, indispensable. Is strychnine a drug? No, it is a deadly poison. And furthermore, words must have a meaning, after all. Are the derivatives of Indian hemp drugs? No. Hashish and marijuana are not drugs. They may perhaps be poisons and that's it. Whereas nicotine, tobacco that is, and alcohol are drugs, poisons that are drugged and drugging. The social cost of alcohol consumption in Italy is staggering, enormous: seventy percent of the beds in clinics for old people who by now are incurable, are occupied by alcoholics. Half the fatal traffic accidents are due, directly or indirectly, to alcohol. Liver diseases and others due to the habitual consumption of our cherished hard liquors, our excellent table wines are a real massacre, are among the first on the list. And yet, even this we tolerate for now.

Who has ever heard of anyone dying from (or being killed by) marijuana?

And most of all, science is unanimous - I repeat, unanimous - after eighty years of intense official research, in maintaining that nothing, nothing of scientific value indicates that the products of Indian hemp are habit forming, produce physical dependency. The tables of the World Health Organisation are explicit in this.

So then? What have our senators - whom we have had to awaken from their lethargy - decided on this point? Continuing to consider hashish a "light" drug, but a "drug" nevertheless, they have decided to allow its use, but only in the toilet at home like the first cigarettes of their by now distant childhood. If on the other hand someone "receives" it, buys, smokes, transports, sniffs, offers it or praises it in public, or allows others to smoke it in his living room, he will be punished either by forced public "cures" or else by fines and prison until healing, failure or death do follow.

And how in the world, for heaven's sake will the marijuana smokers be cured? By psychoanalysis at the expense of the State to remove their Oedipus complexes and the reasons for their unhappiness? By the anti-capitalist revolution come to remove the social and instrumental causes of the evil life of these delinquents or vice-ridden elements? Since there is no clinical picture of drug addiction and dependency or tolerance into which these law breakers fit, one can see no other cure for them other than electroshock or insulin coma therapies based on psychiatric-ideological values. "Is marijuana a drug and are you an addict?" they will be asked; and if the answer is no and they seem to be trying to act smart, zap them with an electric discharge. "Will you smoke the cigarettes of the State tobacco monopoly from now on?" No? Zap them again.

I'm afraid we would still be tolerant and resigned if it were only a question of this. But the bigger problem, dear deputies, is another: it is tragic, anguishing, you can't pretend not to see it. Try applying, in fact, such an "anti-consumption" policy to hard liquor. What would we get? The same thing that happened with America's Prohibition. To prohibit with violence the consumption of something that society demands, tolerates or exalts, means driving huge masses of citizens into an illegal position and creating the conditions for the most illegal, uncontrolled and promiscuous profits for the empire of criminal enterprise. It means letting organized crime swim like fish in the waters of general illegality. The empires of drugs, alcohol and gambling, the memorable victory of the mafia and gangs. Now, like it or not, in many parts of the world and in our country we won't succeed in imposing our nicotine on a large part of the younger generation, just as they (unfortunately from the standpoint of our health)

won't succeed in imposing their hashish smoking on us.

With the half-permissiveness of the Senate, hashish consumption will not diminish, it will continue at an accelerated rate if anything. Therefore there will be an increase in the social mechanisms that follow the logic of profits, earnings, proselytism, illegality and that of placing the consumer and the dealer on the same level. Thus there will be a strengthening, even isolation and destruction, of the supporting structures of real drugs, of the opiates, of the industry of death, atrocious and ever more rapid, diffused and victorious.

Honourable deputies, there are three creators, producers of "drugs" and assassins and massacres: nature, chemistry and laws. The laws, like the criminal one that has given powerful support to criminals for the last twenty years and has made of the State a hangman; or the one we risk having because of our ineptitude, our negligence, our hypocrisy, our lack of rigor and civil morality.

As with abortion, even with drugs and the "reformed" (State, ed.) radio and television, have behaved in an ignoble, fascist manner: much worse than Bernabei's (erstwhile general director of the RAI) - which received not only our, but also the Constitutional Court's seal of approval - that accepted, for its part, the four-hour debate between the LID (Lega Italiana per il Divorzio - Italian League for Divorce, ed.) and its opponents in the single month of September 1969; a hard, tightly disputed debate during prime time, much to the pleasure of the listeners and the advantage of democracy. However tardy, this was a fundamental contribution to the knowledge of the problems, to collective reflection, to your work. But this time, to avoid putting the same "protagonists" of demand for reform in the video and radio limelight, the parliamentarians and politicians who are responsible for the administration of public information have preferred to prevent any true debate and thus leave you all to yourselves with your t

remendous responsibility for which we do not envy you. In order to provide some small compensation for the lack of civil and democratic information regarding drugs as well as abortion, we have had to face imprisonment deliberately and thus at least manage to send a signal through the press, not public, but in spite of all not as ignoble as the RAI-TV and his patrons.

For this, honourable deputies of the Chamber's Justice and Health Commission, you are only relatively responsible. For this reason too we ask you to use your prestige to save at least whatever hope of life that's still left, entrusted to nonviolent, non-criminal republican institutions.

Otherwise I am obliged to make a prediction that is at least as well founded as the one I made publicly three years ago when in asking for a new law we forecasted at least three hundred deaths due to heroin in 1975. In the second half of 1976 alone these will be more than one thousand five hundred, and as many again in the Spring of 1977, the year of new parliamentary elections.

Others have already written of the other huge contradictions of the law: you know what they are. What counts now therefore is to distinguish on the legal level the "drugs" from the "non-drugs". At least that much must be done. We must isolate the heroin industry, isolate it in order to kill it, this infamous industry, by all possible means. For this reason we urgently appeal to you, with determined, duty-bound faith. For once in ten years of political battle, we do it not so much with the hard and certain conscience of militants for a new society, but rather with the deep anguish and humility of people - men, women, friends, parents, children, brothers and sisters of potential victims or also of potential, vicious murderers. Otherwise we'll have to admit that this political democracy in this country is operating, it too,like a lethal drug.

*11 Il Mondo, October 1975, from Marco Pannella - Writings and Discourses - 1959-1980, Gammalibri, January 1982

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